I’m glad I don’t have an older sibling who’s trying to destroy or take over the world because I might be his or hers right-hand man.
Because I started on the far less enthralling second season of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, I never found the Code Geass franchise all that alluring. That being said, I can understand why people enjoy the franchise so much. The franchise boasted colorful characters and a few of the narrative twists and plot points were fascinating. However, the franchise also suffered from a writing staff that couldn’t bring all the pieces together by the final act. This was true in the TV series and it certainly rang true for the OVA (original video anime) series Code Geass: Akito the Exiled. Don’t let my words mislead you, though, because this was only one aspect of the final installment of the Akito the Exiled series, Code Geass: Akito the Exiled To Beloved One (コードギアス亡国のアキト 愛シキモノタチヘ Code Geass Bokoku no Akito Itoshiki Monohe). That statement needs some clarification, however. There were aspects of this installment that were brought to a satisfying close, albeit in an odd fashion, but the writing staff tried their hand at some weak metaphysical philosophy. Apart from this, the action scenes were what one would expect from this franchise: exciting. Yet, when all was said and done, I still can’t help but wonder why the Akito the Exiled series was created. It was a nice addition to the Code Geass franchise, but it also felt as though the animation production company Sunrise was trying to keep the franchise afloat just a bit longer despite having other properties that are, in my opinion, far more interesting.
The anime production company Sunrise has made numerous anime series over the years and for the most part kept them solvent. However, if you watch enough of their series you’ll find a small handful had weak closing acts by comparison to the rest of their series. I feel part of this comes from the four act structure that’s instilled in the mind of so many Japanese authors, directors, and scriptwriters, yet they also seem to want to create a grand narrative for their stories. Therein lies the problem. Unless the story is gradually building up a grand narrative throughout, the core idea informing the series falls flat if it comes out of the blue at the very end. This is what happened with Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 as well as a fair portion of the second season of Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Not all of Sunrise’s series need to be grand tales of heroes fighting some existential threat. They can simply be about a middle-aged man going though a midlife crises, too, as was the case in Tiger & Bunny. Thus, it’s incumbent upon creators to understand their work and message before wedging in metaphysical philosophies.
Herein lay the major issue of To Beloved One. The installment had a number of exciting climatic action scenes, but quickly devolved into poor expositional musings about the nature of humanity. While Akito the Exiled, and even the Code Geass franchise as a whole, touched upon these ideas over the course of the five installments, they came during interpersonal moments between the characters. The second act of the third installment, Code Geass: Akito the Exiled The Brightness Falls, was an example from this series in how it was handled well. What I mean by this is the two prominent characters of the series, Akito Hyuga and Leila Malkal, were discussing their past, what they ultimately wanted to achieve, and how this fit into the larger picture. This scene was interesting because it gave us a better perspective on some very flat characters. However, in To Beloved One this wasn’t the case. Instead, the musings came out of the blue and hardly added to the theme of the series.
Added on top of this, what the characters were discussing, or rather what Leila and the Keeper of Time—mind you this is a rough and unofficial translation of the title—were discussing was a jumbled mess. While it focused on the idea of time and our place in it, unless one was paying close attention to the dialog it sounded closer to self-important meditations than actual commentary designed to make us think. A good comparison would be the scene in the 2003 film The Matrix Reloaded when the protagonist, Neo, was speaking to the computer program The Architect. Both scenes made little sense, required the audience to pay close attention to the word choices, and needed to be watched repeatedly until something could be parsed out. This is a shame because the Akito the Exiled series never needed deep ruminations on humanity as the story focused on a nice conflict between two ideals and the relationship between brothers.
The narrative strength of To Beloved One, then, was that it gave us a conclusion to those stories. Granted, they weren’t all that satisfying, but they helped us understand the relationship between the characters much better. For instance, the villain, Shin Hyuga Shaingu, had a fierce determination to kill Akito throughout the series. Although there were passing scenes that expressed Shin Hyuga Shaingu’s reasons for this, it was articulated far better in this installment. As always, going into detail could ruin the narrative, but suffice it to say it wasn’t just attention grabbing but also involved the affection Shin Hyuga Shaingu had for Akito. Mind you, this was intercut with the poor metaphysical contemplations and made the final moments between the two characters cumbersome. But, the penultimate shot of Shin Hyuga Shaingu was deeply satisfying.
Even outside of the narrative arc surrounding Shin Hyuga Shaingu, the climatic battle was a sight to behold and not because it was a grand spectacle, but because it brought this particular story to a close. While it didn’t address some of the finer points of the story, especially in regards to some of the characters’ backgrounds, it came to a satisfying conclusion. After all, not all stories need to leave you wondering what happened with the characters afterwards. In fact, any more time with these characters could have actually led to an unsatisfying ending.
Putting the ending aside, the real showstopper of this installment was the action. This should come as no surprise as the action in the Code Geass franchise is stunning. Once again the animation team was able to craft some gorgeous movements for the Nightmare Frames, the robots in the franchise, with the writing staff setting up some interesting situations for each segment. For instance, there was some tension, albeit weak tension, regarding how the Holy Britannian Army would breach the outer walls of the castle the W-0 Unit was fortified in. But, beyond that particular segment, what should have been a storm-the-castle situation became a collection of nail biting skirmishes. Added on top of this, and it baffles me to no end why I overlooked this in the previous installments, the action had an inkling of Old World siege and World War I trench warfare but with a futuristic veneer. This combination may seem odd at first, but considering how the franchise used the European Empire model of the 1800s as a backdrop, this shouldn’t be surprising. On the contrary, it’s refreshing because when an anime series focuses on action, it’s of the main characters and not the larger picture. Yet, when we’re able to see the larger scope of a battle, it can reinforce the importance of one or two characters’ roles. As such, the action in To Beloved One was entertaining to say the least.
There was a major issue with the action being animated to follow the movements of the Nightmare Frames too tightly, though. I understand the reasoning behind this—the action took place in narrow corridors—however, using wide-angle shots or even top down shots every now and then would have made the action flow much better. Added on top of this, while some of the tight shots were nice, there were some that made the action feel too erratic. Yes, combat isn’t supposed to be a smooth ordeal, but it’s important for the audience to be able to follow the characters through the chaos. This was particularly true with the character Ashley Ashura. While we could make out some of the destruction he wrought, the animation was generally too quick and the shots too tight to make heads or tails of what was going on. Had the animation team animated the action from different perspectives, it would have mitigated the issue and made many more of the action set pieces enjoyable to watch.
In the end I have to ask, was the Code Geass: Akito the Exiled series necessary for the Code Geass franchise? There are a couple of ways to consider this question: did the story add to the franchise as a whole and what were some of the reasons for producing it? I can only speculate about the latter, but I felt the OVA was born out of a desire to keep the franchise afloat just a bit longer. There’s nothing inherently wrong about this, companies do it all the time, but it seemed as though what was a cash cow for Sunrise between 2006 and 2010 didn’t have the staying power the executives at Sunrise thought it did. As such, creating the Akito the Exiled series may have been an exercise in profiting off a fading intellectual property before it fell into the recesses of the memories of anime and manga fans. This is a very cynical look at the series and I don’t think it holds much water. But, since some people might come to that conclusion, I felt the hypothesis should be clearly stated. However, that’s not what I really think. Rather, I feel a director at Sunrise had a story he or she wanted to tell and the Code Geass franchise was the perfect delivery method for it.
Then what about my first argument, did the Akito the Exiled series benefit the Code Geass franchise? I actually think it had a positive effect on it. For one, we saw an interesting side story about a small group of characters who were relatively unrelated to the main narrative. The series also expanded on the world of Code Geass and gave us a perspective of that world we may not have considered before, especially since the main series focused on East Asia. This makes me wonder what other stories and characters were there in other parts of the world and how were they affected by the machinations of the main series and even the Akito the Exiled series. For example, what sorts of characters were living in Africa or even Central and South America during the events of both series? Both these geographic locations have dealt with European rule to one degree or another and seeing these ideas brought up again may be interesting for modern audiences. As such, while I found the series a bit disappointing throughout, I’m actually glad it was made. Do I look forward to another Code Geass anime property? Not really. But, there certainly could be kernels of interesting ideas in those hypothetical series as well.
Code Geass: Akito the Exiled To Beloved One is a mixed bag when it comes to its narrative quality. The climatic action scenes were certainly enticing, yet the series as a whole suffered when the ill-timed and all too confusing metaphysical musings of this installment are taken into consideration. Had the production team focused on the strength of the series rather than try to insert their meditations on life, existence, and the concept of time, this installment would have faired much better. At the very least, they could have spread the story out over the course of the five chapters of the entire OVA in order to create a more well-rounded narrative arc. That being said, the action was engaging once again, and while it was plagued with a few animation choices that made some sequences erratic, the quality of each action scene was incredible. As the finale in the Akito the Exiled series it was a bit underwhelming, but the installment came to an end that was appropriate for the story that was being told. Although I felt this series added the Code Geass franchise, I can’t help but think most people could forgo watching it and not really miss anything. That being said, Code Geass fans shouldn’t pass this installment up, as you will certainly enjoy it.
Title: Akito the Exiled series, Code Geass: Akito the Exiled To Beloved One (コードギアス亡国のアキト 愛シキモノタチヘ Code Geass Bokoku no Akito Itoshiki Monohe)
Under: Sunrise Inc.
Official Site: http://www.geass.jp/akito/
More Info: http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/コードギアス_亡国のアキト